Tome and Plume: Reading Books Means Eating Crisps With Cup of Tea or Coffee

Tome and Plume: Reading Books Means Eating Crisps With Cup of Tea or Coffee

Polonius: What do you read, my lord? Hamlet: Words, words, words – William Shakespeare

Arup Chakraborty Updated: Monday, April 29, 2024, 03:36 PM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A word portrays loads of thought. Yet most of the words are not well explained to students. Many dictionaries printed by well-known publishing houses – especially in Asian countries – ambiguously explain a word.

To the learners, this causes confusion which lingers in their mind even when they come of age.

There is a conjunction – while. A much-acclaimed dictionary published in India explains it as space of time; time and trouble spent; during the time that; notwithstanding time that; admitted the fact that; until; to pass without; and while, at the same time that.

‘While’ may also be used as a verb with the preposition away which means to pass, to spend, to idle, to fritter away and to kill – of course time. When students consult such a dictionary to know how to use this conjunction, they are confused.

Therefore, as they grow up, they use this ‘difficult conjunction’ anywhere. The reason is that the exact meaning of ‘while’ and its use has not been explained to them.

‘While’ means, strictly, during the time that; it is also tolerable as although, but. This is how the good dictionaries explain this word.  A former editor of the London/Times Sunday Times, Harold Evans, said, “It is nonsense to use while as a synonym for and or whereas.” He gives an example: Mr Jones is the president while Mr Smith is the secretary means Jones is the president during that time that Smith is secretary. It means they must resign together.

We recently came across a sentence – "Pass percentage of MP Board class 10 dropped to 58.10% in 2023, while that of class 12 shot up from 55.28% to 64.49%.” The ambiguity arises when we give a proper thought to the conjunction – while that of. Dropping of the pass percentage, and shooting up of it happened together, or although the pass percentage of class 10 students dropped, the pass percentage of class 12 shot up.

In such cases, the conjunction ‘and’ is preferable to ‘while.’ Sir Alan Hubert exposes the absurdity: The curate read the first lesson while the rector read the second. In the King’s English H W Fowler, grammarian of all grammarians, wrote: “While, originally temporal, has a legitimate use also in contrasts.

The further colourless use of it, whether with verb or with participle, as mere elegant variation for ‘and’ is very characteristic of journalese, and much to be deprecated.”  This is the reason why most of the good authors have used this conjunction in the sense of during the time that.

Big brother is watching you, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own – George Orwell. Two things are happening together, and both temporal. To use this conjunction correctly, one must have good command of the verbs, too.

Last but not the least You must read at least 100 pages daily to write a few words to fire your imagination, to quell your thirst for knowledge, and to keep away from everyday life. Many people often say they do not have enough time to read a book. They are perhaps oblivious to the verity that if they really do any work, they have time to sift through a few pages of a book, too.

Millions of words have been written from the days of Francis Bacon about the importance of studies. Yet the question is what should you read?  How should you read? Bacon himself gave you the answer. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested – Of Studies, Francis Bacon. It signifies: a few books are worthy of a cursory look or quick reading for appreciating a particular idea. So, such volumes should only be tasted. There are, however, a few that you must read thoroughly or swallow or devour.

One such volume is Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. The encounters between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy keep you abiding for that long for what is to follow. Then who can forget Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? Bronte’s words have a timbre so effective that they ring every time you are alone searching for solace. They do not let hopes depart from your breast. I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will – Jane Eyre, Emily Bronte. The heart of the subject “I” elegantly blends with the soul of object “me” – though there are two verbs – “am” and “ensnares.” 

A semicolon entails the subject’s soulful melange with the object. You must read this novel to unveil the mystery behind that melange. 

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